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Wake Sheriff Rescues Lost Alzheimer's Patient

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WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Paul Ringler, 83, loves to walk outside. The problem is that the Alzheimer's patient can't find his way home. And on Tuesday, his caretaker, Glenda Long, found his door wide open with Ringler nowhere in sight.

"You feel kind of panicky when you don't know where and how they are," said Long.

That's when she noticed a commotion up the street. She saw Wake County sheriff's deputies, and Sheriff Donnie Harrison himself.

"I just happened to be one of the closest cars to it and got there and found a gentleman laying in a ditch," said Harrison. "He had his pajamas on, and a t-shirt."

In 20 years, the sheriff himself, using his bloodhounds, has found as many as 10 Alzheimer's patients who've wandered away from their homes.

"It's an ongoing problem, and to me, it's only going to get worse," said Harrison.

As Wake County grows bigger and older, the sheriff says it's time to do something about it. Harrison wants to issue tracking devices the size of a watch, so deputies can track down wandering patients and potentially save their lives.

The county is teaming up with the Pilot Club, a service group, to buy 10 tracking bracelets for Project Lifesaver. Patients wear the radio transmitters, and deputies will have a high-powered receiver that will track them if they disappear.

"If we've saved one life, we've accomplished something," said Harrison.

When asked if the sheriff saved Ringler's life, he said that he believes would've spotted him. Either way, Ringler will go on the list for one of the new bracelets, giving his family and his caretaker a little peace of mind.

The sheriff's office is putting up $5,000 for the program. The Pilot Club is matching that. They hope to have it running sometime late next month.


John Bachman, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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